The other day I realized that my taste in music has evolved into that of a dad. Not like a guy that has a child, but like...my dad. Bring on the Korg, baby. Send me down the sweet, sweet rabbit hole of the prog rock synth riff. Kansas? Uh huh. Yes? Yes. Alan Parsons Project? Alan Parsons Party! I’m not ashamed of it. But, then again, my antiquated tastes aren’t getting me anywhere in today’s now-obsessed social media popularity contest. I’m pretty sure after two mentions of Jethro Tull, they revoke your Twitter account. It’s not like I’m some quirky music producer that can be dropping samples of Gates of Delirium into the next Kanye West single. And I never wanted to be the guy who buys his last pair of jeans at age 29 and cryogenically freezes his ability to adapt to technology and absorb pop culture. It’s bad enough that I’m starting out with tastes that went out of fashion before I was born.
I decided to go on a little fact-finding mission. I came up with a plan that during my morning commute, while walking to the subway, I would cue up Pandora and listen to the "Today’s Hits" station. Up until this point, I had really only ever created one Pandora station. Why would a person need any more? Just surgically stitch together your favorite songs and musicians into one continuous feed, and thou shalt not want for personally relevant music. With hesitancy, I began streaming my way towards a brave, more with-it, new world.
What I heard wasn’t awfully surprising. One fails to realize how pervasive pop music is in every cranny of our culture. Even if I hadn’t “heard” the song, I had heard it. I eventually discovered that I had chosen to avoid a few particular artists outright. Namely Justin Bieber. And Nicki Minaj. Look - of course I know who they are. I’m not dead. He sings a song about babies and she wears a clown wig or something. But imagine my surprise when I look down at the screen to see that they had collaborated on a song. How did that even come to fruition? Was she babysitting him?
It’s called Beauty and the Beat. Hm. I like that. It appeals to my childhood connection to the Second Golden Age of Animation. Pretty standard rhythm and hook. Definitely has that magical catchiness formula. But the more I listened, the more turned off I became. I started listening to the lyrics:
We gonna party like it's 3012 tonight. I wanna show you all the finer things in life. So just forget about the world, we're young tonight. I'm coming for ya, I'm coming for ya.
3012? What is the significance of that? 1000 years from now? Was that foretold as a really great party year and I missed it? Are they celebrating the millennial anniversary of defying the Mayan apocalypse? And what does an 18 year old know about “the finer things in life”? Like going to college and feeling great about not calling your mom when you’re going to stay out late? And why does it end with a predatory threat?
I was racked with questions. Then, rather unfairly, while I was grappling with my confusion, here comes Nicki Minaj to the party. Like some sort of creepy fairy mixed with a schizophrenic rhyming troll, she twisted words and phrases into unintelligible squawking and slurring, eventually, inexplicably rhyming “Bieber” with “wiener.” And that was it. That was the moment that I lost. Lost my youthfulness. My desire to understand and participate in our culture. To live outside my safe zone.
I took a moment to reflect. I thought back to 2002 when the number one song was “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne. And I let the lyrics wash over me. Why did you have to go and make things so complicated, Time? What happened to the days when I could just blindly like whatever was on the radio and be in conversation with the real decision makers of this country: its pop stars. And then I realized Time was the problem. I’m old. And I fall and I crawl and I break and I take what I get and I turn it into honesty, you promised me I’m never gonna find you fake it. No, no.